When you get married, you envision the holidays with your immediate family a certain way. You envision you and your husband up late wrapping gifts. You see the face of your children on Christmas morning when they come into the living room and see all of the gifts under the tree. When you become a widow, you realize very quickly that the life you’ve always envisioned is much different than the life you are actually living. I was 7 months pregnant when Chris died. He passed away 2 weeks before Christmas.
Christmas Eve was the toughest day for me this year. I found myself reflecting on old Christmas memories. We used to go to my Uncle’s House when I was a child. That was the highlight of the year! Chris and I then started out own tradition with two of his friends where we would stay up late and wrap all of the gifts from Santa. The Holidays have always been a time of joy, family and fun! Christmas has always been a huge Cotton tradition! I started celebrating with them when I was in highschool. We would play games, laugh, joke and do the best version of a Pollyanna I’ve ever seen! With the Cotton family, it wasn’t about the gifts, but the creativity used when presenting the gift. It was always a great night of family and fun. We were very intentional to still celebrate in 2019 as best we could. But with the Pandemic shutting everything down the following year, it has been hard to swing back into motion.
Christmas has always been my absolute FAVORITE HOLIDAY! I have childhood memories of Motown Christmas songs playing in the background, fun filled family gatherings, and waking up on Christmas morning to see what Santa brought us! Although I was never in a rush to have children, when I got married at 21, I would always think about they types of Christmas traditions we would have with our children. One of my favorite traditions with Chris was that we used our wedding cake topper on our Christmas Tree. As I unpacked the tree this year, and went thorough the ornaments I looked at our cake topper. I realized that I did not want to use it this year. And although I’ve gone through many stages now in my widow journey like taking my ring off, no longer wearing my memorial necklace and taking his photos off the wall, it was something about the thought of decorating the tree and not using the topper that made me hesitant. So I left the tree in the corner. With NO DECOR.
Every year I decorate the ENTIRE outside of my home. I live in a corner property so I usually light the entire corner up. The more lights and decor, THE BETTER! This year, I put up lack luster decor outside and didn’t even decorate my tree at all. I brought it up and never decorated it. Blue came home from school everyday and placed her Paw Patrol ornament on different branches of the tree and that is the one and only piece of decor that was on the tree until Christmas morning! When I was pregnant, the thing I looked forward to the most was what our Holiday traditions would be like with our children. What memories we would make together.
I now realize that although the traditions I looked forward to may not be my reality now, the Lord is building me up for my next. And although it HURTS, and although I would prefer what I had envisioned in my mind, I know that the Lord’s will and his plan is far greater than what I have planned. This season feels lonely (even with everyone around) because my life was supposed to include a husband and children. And the holiday season magnifies what I don’t have verses what I do have. This year, I decided to lean into these emotions. Usually I press past them and work diligently to “get over” them. But this year is different. I am giving myself permission to feel! It’s ok to FEEL! It’s ok to be SAD! It’s ok to grieve one thing while hoping and praying for another. It is all OK! Sometimes we have to give ourselves permission to feel, so that we can actually heal.
Many people experiencing grief during the holiday season, may be like me. Reflecting on how you expected for life to go. Feeling a void that your loved one once filled. You are surrounded by many, but feel all alone. I see you, I love you, I AM YOU! And guess what? Through the tears, through the disappointment, through the anger, the Lord is also with us! He sees us, he understands us and He will continue to COMFORT US! Allow yourself space to feel. And to truly give the Lord every emotion that you feel in this season. He can handle it. Talk to him about each and everything that you are feeling. He already knows, but it is so freeing to be able to articulate those things to Him. He will comfort us and although that will not remove the emotions that we feel, just know that His plan is far greater than anything we could have asked or imagined 🏾